EXPERT PANEL: Brexit citizenship app raises the question – Can you have mobile identity without Apple?

Last week, the UK Government outlined the steps approximately 3.7 million EU citizens living in the UK will need to take if they wish to continue living in the UK post Brexit. One of three steps is to prove identity and to help people to do so an app has been created that reads the chip in the passport. A great idea, however, in April, testing revealed that it currently only works on Android devices. So, as it stands those who use Apple devices (and there are an awful lot of people who do) will need to physically send in their passport, unless the issue is resolved.

So, can you have mobile identity without Apple?

John Erik Setsaas, Identity Architect at Signicat: “About half of UK citizens and 25% of EU citizens use iOS. As Apple has locked down NFC making it impossible to work with the passport scanning app, there will be a sizeable number of people without passports for some time. This could be a problem for many, but it’s especially likely to be a problem for migrants, given that they tend to rely on their passport for ID and are far more likely to need to travel at short notice.”

John Erik 2017-04-b

Chief Data Scientist at Callsign, Yogesh Patel, comments: “It is exciting to see the Government taking steps towards digital transformation, and the intentions behind this idea are good. However, there is a huge danger that by designing solutions with technology silos in mind will result in citizens having multiple digital identities that will be hard to manage and maintain. Each individual is unique and must have a unique digital identity.”

Yogesh Patel Chief Data Scientist Callsign

CEO of Nuggets, Alastair Johnson says: “It’s not so much whether it’s Apple or any other brand, its more about accessibility, in this day and age there is no reason or justification not to make all sources of interaction accessible to a high level. In this case to not include Apple is short sighted especially in an area of wide ranging product adoption.”

Alastair Johston - Nuggets

Patel add: “Another cause for concern is that by implementing services that can only be used on one particular device or platform that a vast number of people will suffer ‘digital isolation’. This doesn’t just encompass people who use Apple products, but also individuals who cannot afford a smart phone, or elderly people who are unable to use these new technologies. The Government needs to avoid creating a ‘have or have-not society’, with some demographics able to access amenities quickly and easily, with others who can only gain access via inconvenient public sources or old-fashioned routes.”

Setsaas suggests: “A government should not choose a strategy which greatly favours one technology over another, in this case Android over iOS. One fix would be if Apple made NFC more accessible to app developers. Another would be for the government to use a combination of available identity assurance methods that together would be strong enough for people to identify themselves remotely—without the risk of passports going missing in the mail. As not all passports are yet biometric—only 120 countries issue them—using of a mix of identity assurance methods would make this far more inclusive.

Continues Patel. “What the Government really needs is a technologically ubiquitous solution in order to avoid isolating certain members of the public whilst also speeding up the identification process for EU citizens.”